Sunday, September 28, 2008

Haile Gebrselassie Wins Berlin Marathon

Today Haile Gebreselassie, Ethiopian mega-hero, broke his own marathon world record becoming the first runner to finish a marathon in under 2 hours, 4 minutes. This was his third straight win at the Berlin Marathon. Teammate Askale Magsara came in second at 2:21:31, marking his own personal best.

If you ever turn your eye to long distance running, you will see Ethiopians near the front of the pack. This year at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Ethiopians brought home 4 gold, 2 silver, and 1 bronze medals. Ethiopians won gold in both the women's and men's 10000 meter and the women's and men's 5000 meter. East Africans, Kenya and Ethiopia in particular, have dominated long distance running for decades. So I wondered why. Here's what I've learned:

Many believe Ethiopian athletes engage in more disciplined and regimented training, and at the same time are more relaxed at race time. The legendary Haile Gebrselassie, whom many young Ethiopians have grown up trying to emulate, says that running in Africa is not an individual sport and that in Ethiopia in particular, runner support one another. Others state that female athletes in Ethiopia are more respected and supported than in Kenya. Others speculate that because life in Ethiopia is hard, it is for many, a way out of poverty.

What is undeniably true is that generation after generation of young Ethiopian has had a long distance runner to idolize. Haile Gebrselassie, 34, would have grown-up knowing the story of a shoeless Abebe Bikila (pictured above) who won the 1960 marathon gold in Rome. He then went on to win a second one in 1964 after recovering from appendicitis. When asked why he had not worn shoes, Bikila explained, "I wanted the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism". Gebrselassie has since gone on to inspire countless young Ethiopian athletes himself.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Things I've Learned in the Past Year

Prompted by my recent birthday, I started looking back on the year to what I've learned. Someday I might put it altogether in my autobiography that I plan to entitle, Why is Everything I Touch Sticky?--The True Story of How One Woman Couldn't Stop Adding Children to Her Family and How She and Her Husband Survived. Maybe if I wait long enough Angelina will write it and I won't have to. My favorite thing is to tell Erik that Brad and Angelina are "winning". I don't really think that. I mean obviously they are winning in some pretty obvious ways that don't necessarily have anything to do with their kids. I read recently that there was concern and speculation over Angelina's mental health because since the twins were born, she's crying everyday. To that I say, no shit. She's got 6 kids under the age of 7. Of course she is. But I digress...Here's what I've learned in the past year:

1. Don't bother looking---always assume the toilet needs flushing.

2. It pays to have baby wipes in every room of the house and the car. They make great, non-toxic, multi-purpose cleaning wipes.

3. If you have a family 5 and haven't been doing two loads of laundry a day, you have been fooling yourself.

4. At the rate my spine is compressing and Ava is growing, she will, with out a doubt, be taller than me when she's 17.

5. When it isn't 100 degrees outside, everyone is much happier.

6. Ava can read things like, "To that I say, no shit."

7. In a discussion that was not meant to predict or negotiate, Erik and I realized we have the same number of children that we feel we could manage before we "broke". And that number is 7. We decided with much certainty that 8 would indeed be our simultaneous undoing.

8. The more connected children feel to you, the more cooperation you receive from them.

9. I can make a mean beet pancake that is beautifully pink, nutritious and delicious that my children scarf up.

10. Erik is better at making up fun games than me, and it makes me jealous.

11. My friend Lynn tried once to explain this to me but I didn't get it because Ava was still very little---It gets a bit harder when they get older because they have their own ideas about life and how things should be. And you have to respect them. Which means less room for your own ideas and how you think things should be. And then you realize they have their own paths. And that you can not pave the path for them, nor can you be their map. You can only be their flashlight. And that is scary and sad and beautiful.

12. When dirt, water, flower petals, sticks, pebbles are mixed together to make a magic potion it is sweetly pretty. After sitting in a bucket for a week it smells like wet monkeys and poo.

13. The more children I have, the more tired and happy I am. Just don't let me get to 8.

Erik would like to add that he learned that children enjoy horse betting. Except the eldest, when she doesn't win any money.

I learned where Ava might have gotten that.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Here are two Eden stories:

The other day, just to see what they would say, I asked Ava and Eden what their favorite thing about being alive was. Ava answered first: "Roller skating, going to school, swimming and reading."
Me: "Yeah, those are fun things about being alive!"
"How about you Eden, what's your favorite thing about being alive?"
"Uuuumm, 'cause like, when you're a kid, you don't have to die as soon as when you're a grown-up."

I read to them sometimes while they eat dinner. They are usually books of a certain nature-- self-esteem, compassion, diversity, adoption, Ethiopia, working on our Amharic. Stuff like that. So last week while reading a book called, "I Like Myself!", this is what happened:

The book begins--"I like myself! I'm glad I'm me. There's no one else I'd rather be. I like my eyes, my ears, my nose. I like my fingers and my toes. I like me wild. I like me tame. I like me different and the same. I like me fast. I like me slow. I like me everywhere I go. I like me on the inside, too, for all I think and say and do."

And before I could turn to the next page Eden says, "Even if you poop your panties?"
So I said, "Yes, even if you poop your panties."

This is particularly funny to me because through some miracle, none of my children have ever pooped their panties. Ever. So I don't know if she was working on some decision about someone at school, or just wondered if one could actually like themselves if they were to do such a thing. I hope that the message was clear---EVEN if you poop your panties, you can still like yourself.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Worthwhile Waiting

So, one of the things I intend to do with the increased wait time is to blog here a bit more about Ethiopian culture for those who read this blog and are interested. I might also throw in some stuff about transracial adoption for good measure and if you read this blog and have a question throw it my way.

Ethiopia is a country rife with problems. But it is also incredibly beautiful, has an amazing history, and proud, strong people. So while Ethiopia's problems are important to me, more than I can convey, it would be a disservice to Ethiopia and her people to talk about just the negative. So here are some of the positive: (Pictured above, the Blue Nile Falls)

---Ethiopia has a total population estimated at approximately 75 million, is home to more than 80 ethnic groups and languages, with some 200 dialects.
---Ethiopia is one of a few African countries to never have been colonized, although it was occupied by Mussolini's Fascists from 1935-1941
---Ethiopia follows the Julian calender which consists of 12 months of 30 day and a 13 month of 5 days (or 6 in a leap year). The calender is 7 years and 8 months behind the Western (or Gregorian) calender

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Deep Breath

Today is Ethiopian New Year or Enkutatash which means "Gift of Jewels". This marks the end of Ethiopia's rainy season and the Meskel daisies bloom across the hillsides. Historically, it marks the Queen of Sheba's return to Ethiopia after her visit to King Solomon. Upon her return, her chiefs gave her jewels, or "enku". Meskerem 1st, is equivalent to Spetember 11th on the Gregorian calender. Meskerem is seen as a time of transition from the old year, into the new. It is for Ethiopians, just like our New Year celebration, a time to express hopes and dream for the future.

Well. I've done some serious whining here lately. Sometimes the waiting gets to me, what can I say? I feel like mostly I handle it well, with occasional lapses here and there. And then when I lapse, I feel like I need to record it here for some reason, vomiting up my thoughts for a handful of people to see. But mostly to record this strange ride. And so that my future children understand how we hoped and dreamed of them.
Every time I begin to think of how hard it is to wait, how I want to rush this, make time pass more quickly, I'm quickly assaulted by the humbling fact that what I want to rush for myself, means something very different for our child's first family. As I wait, someone or multiple someones are making a heartbreaking decision. Or already have. I do not want to take away the last moments my child has with their Ethiopian family. I do not want to rush my wait and excitement while others are savoring their last touches. And when I think that maybe our child is already in an orphanage, that maybe the decision has already been made to try to claim a more certain future for a child, then I wonder if Erik and I are tied to this family already, all of missing this child that will forever bind us and our families for generations to come.

We made prayer flags to hang in our backyard several weeks ago. Small, white muslin squares strung on thin rope, hung to wave in the breeze. Ava wrote "PEACE" on one, "HAPPINESS" on another. Eden and Safa drew pictures of flowers and family. And because it is fading in the light of the summer sun, and because I want to be sure it is not forgotten, I will share one of my squares. It is a lofty, perhaps impossible dream, but I maintain it nonetheless: "May our future childrens' first families always know peace. May they forever rest in the knowledge of our enduring dedication to their own and our eternal gratitude."

And so I gently suggest to myself, when selfishness and a fast-forwarding mindset try to settle in me, that I remember what others are losing that I may gain so much.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Extended Wait Time

Yesterday we found out that our original wait time of 6-9 months for referral has now been extended to 12 months. My heart is breaking. I can think of no way to eloquently convey the pain of this information. Because we are open to gender and aren't requesting an infant, because we are open to some medical needs that others might not be considering, we were certain our call would come in October. But now that has changed. Due to the high number of orphans, and a growth in the number of people adopting them, and many, many other issues, to some of which we are not made privy, the time has been extended. The world of international adoption can be unpredictable. Programs open and close. Wait times inevitably increase as governments strain to process adoptions and more agencies get involved. Ethical questions arise (thank goodness!) and need to be investigated. But for me, right here, right now, I feel like I could crawl (and swim I guess) to Ethiopia if it meant I could just hold my child.